I went to a Christian educators’ convention this past week. This particular convention by no means colored outside the lines of fundamentalism. I expected the hot wife reference, the session against progressive Christianity, and the exclusively white male platform aged 45-70.
But I didn’t expect the pastor to find his son’s sexist attitudes toward women drivers funny enough to go on and on about before hundreds of Christians. And I certainly didn’t anticipate the passing joke about police brutality. Police brutality. As a joke. From a Christian pastor.
With all the conference’s rules and stipulations (like playing only piano music or requiring grown women to wear skirts), it went out of the way to not offend any of the Christian present. And of course, it’s good to keep the peace. I grumbled about the skirts-only rule (and, not going to lie, considered wearing my shortest skirt just to make a point), but you know, whatever. It’s no big deal.
So with all this crossing of Ts, it came across like the pastor deemed this group of Christians, too sensitive to handle women’s pants or a guitar, an appropriate audience for his tasteless comments about women and violence. It came across like it’s a more crucial Christians issue for women to wear maxi skirts than to stand against injustice — like the pastor didn’t feel like he’d get backlash for saying what he said, like he thought he’d get laugh lines, like he thought yeah, of course, here’s a safe Christian place where people will actually find these things funny.
I’m not surprised for trivial scruples to outweigh issues of justice once again, but it still shocks me every time.
I ranted about it, of course. I felt strong emotions about it. When I came to that last box on the exit survey, the one where the unsuspecting event planners ask for comments, I wrote out some suggestions and complaints:
Also, about the keynote speakers. I would appreciate hearing from speakers with an actual education background. I’d love to see women up on the platform too as speakers or as worship leaders. Women make up a huge part of Christian education, so I’d love to hear a woman’s perspective!
Lastly, with all respect, I thought the pastor’s passing joke about police brutality tasteless. I’m shocked a Christian pastor made such a comment while our Christian siblings in the black community are suffering.
Then I sat there, staring at the words. I re-read them three times.
Am I that feminist? The one who makes a huge stink about trivial things? The wet blanket to every joke? The one who finds oppression and injustice in every single thing alive?
Am I being disrespectful? Am I being annoying? Am I just sounding angry and whiny like the worst of female stereotypes?
Should I try to complain about the sexist joke too, or is that pulling at straws?
Will anybody read this?
Will they Google my name and find out I’m an egalitarian and revoke my teaching license and force me out of a job?
Is this really that big of a deal?
I don’t want to sound annoying.
I should add something positive at the end.
So I did. I said something about “all in all, I thought the conference was professionally put together, and I learned lots of great things.”
And I stared at it some more.
Am I being too conciliatory? Too nice? Does this matter? Should I just exit out of this survey and go back to listening to another forty-five minute sermon?
But I hit enter.
The same thing happened again on Facebook. Someone posted something sexist, and I sat there agonizing. Speak up? Stay silent? Private message? Public comment? Sarcasm? Sincerity? Add a caveat about how you still like them? Let them have it?
I worry about how to present these causes of justice. Many Christians are callous to real oppression and injustice. When they see sexism or racism, they don’t recognize it. They might even defend it. They start ranting about liberals and feminists and their trigger warnings.
I don’t want to be “that feminist,” not just because I hate being written off, but because I don’t want my causes, the causes that move God’s heart, to be written off as overreactions. I don’t want racism and sexism and religious callousness to be written off as feminism’s imaginary friends.
I don’t want my rhetoric to contribute to conservatives digging in their heels and plugging their ears and pointing their fingers, when we need more hands, feet, and listening ears fighting against the exploitation and degradation of others.
But all the same, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating that I feel like I can’t call attention to perceived injustice and know all Christians will jump to careful consideration and repentance. It’s frustrating that I feel like Christians are more concerned with music and dress than justice. It’s frustrating that I feel fear and embarrassment over calling attention to tasteless comments.
I don’t think this is a feminist overreaction. I think this is a real problem in our church today.